Book Review: The Football Girl

The Football Girl 
By: Thatcher Heldring
Published By: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
Page Count: 208
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Middle Grades/Young Adult - Contemporary

Football is one of my favorite sports and when the season ends I always have a pang of remorse each year. The long weeks between the Super Bowl and Pre-Season seem to drag. March Madness and soccer can keep me occupied, but my mind keeps returning to the crisp fall air. As such, the cover of this novel alone drew me in. 

I went into this one expecting a Catching Jordan sort of read mixed with a bit from the old movie, Quarterback Princess, but this one was different than what I had predicted. It read more like a middle grades novel than a YA novel, which isn't always bad, but did make for more simplistic dialogue and I had difficulty connecting to the characters. While the main characters, Tessa and Caleb, are getting ready to start high school, they seemed younger to me. The novel is told from both of their perspectives which I liked because we get to see both sides of the football issue. I did love that Tessa was willing to follow her instincts - even when people said she shouldn't due to her gender. I also found that Caleb's sense of loyalty - especially where Tessa and his family were concerned - was also admirable.

In addition to friendships and a budding romance, Tessa and Caleb also have to deal with family issues. Tessa's parents seemed self absorbed and more concerned with the mayoral race than with their daughter's happiness. I was outraged on Tessa's behalf over that lousy birthday gift. I liked that Caleb's parents were more involved in their sons' lives, but I also found fault with Caleb's dad as he constantly butted heads with his oldest son, Charlie. Parents don't always get to determine the path their child will take in life, but I do feel they should try their best to be supportive whenever possible. The parents begin to redeem themselves by the end of the novel, but it felt a little too late.

My biggest complaint with this one is it felt like too much which made nothing truly developed. Tessa is trying to play high school football. She also has a rift form with her and her closest girl friends over cross country. She's trying to navigate her first boyfriend. She's challenging gender stereotypes. She's dealing with some frustration towards her parents and their apparent apathy towards her. She's also being thrust into the spotlight as her mom attempts to become mayor. That's a lot for a rising freshman to handle in one summer. Tessa's strong and she navigates through the issues to the best of her ability, but I wish the novel had been longer to fully develop these strands or had to tried to tackle less.

All in all, this is a cute and clean read for middle schoolers and young teens. I'm not sure it will appeal to older teens due to its simplistic style, but I could see a reluctant reader enjoying this one. I also would recommend this to young girls to illustrate that anything is possible when you have a strong work ethic and determination. 

One Last Gripe: I wish Tessa had more guidance. In some ways it seemed she was playing football just to get her parents' attention.

Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the setting. The Pilchuck references reminded me of Marysville, Washington. I can't help but wonder if this town provided inspiration for the setting.

First Sentence: It was the day of the Pilchuck Scramble, the biggest trail run in town.

Favorite Character: Caleb

Least Favorite Character: Tessa's Mom

The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship…and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country.

But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running cross-country. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb? Or between her two best friends, who are counting on her to try out for cross-country with them? And will her parents be upset that she’s decided to take her hobby to the next level? This summer Caleb and Tessa figure out just what it means to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, teammate, best friend, and someone worth cheering for.